HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ME

Yes, I am a father, and will always be a father even though I do not celebrate this special day. A friend intimated that there is a special kind of hurt when she said that I must have some way of dealing with this occasion, of coping with the loss of my relationship with my children. She is right.

She also wondered aloud what feelings my children experienced on this day. They must think about it – think about me, right? I don’t know, but I appreciated her conclusion that she would pray for them. I will too.

Many people feel a sort of angst when I tell them about this circumstance, about how my children could not make the transition with me from man to woman. Out of concern for me, they are often perturbed with the negative reaction of my children to my gender transition. My children have completely rejected me and think of me as dead. We have not spoken in nearly seven years.

It is harsh, but they are not entirely to blame. Their self-centered reaction is a reflection of their self-centered father. It is a function of the way they were raised, for children learn what they live.
Parents are responsible, at least in part, for the character defects of their children. Teach your children well.

So, my way of coping with the loss of familial association (as we lawyers would put it) on Father’s Day is one of understanding, responsibility and compassion. It must also be one of humility and acceptance. With humility serenity is certain to follow.

I am posting this blog because, not only many trans people, but I suspect many of the LGB folks as well, have a similar experience when they come out to their grown children. Well, not the Ls on Father’s day, but there is Mother’s Day too. The simple fact is that some children do reject their parent’s attempts to become authentic.

I suppose there is some stage of grief in which a person becomes philosophical about their loss, but I do wonder about the state of “familial association” in the LGBT universe. Do people have a natural inclination to resist change in the ones we love? I mean there is a whole childhood wrapped up in parents remaining the same – forever. Is not much of a young adult’s security attached to the stability, such as it is, of their parents? We like our parents the way they are, however they are. It is what we know. When they go changing stuff it shakes up our world. Sure, there are some who are mature and secure enough to focus altruistically on another’s health and wholeness, but many of us often focus on own feelings and needs first. Especially if you are self centered like me.

But, I have changed. Well, duh-uh! I have changed inside too. I now understand that my self centeredness is a character defect that I can grow beyond. In stead of drowning in self pity over the loss of my children, I can focus on their health and happiness. I can be happy for their happiness. I can be proud that they have their own lives, filled with the things that young people do and have. They have relationships and work and play. They are okay, and just as I am responsible in part for their character defects, I too can take some ownership in their successes.

And when Father’s Day is done I can wish me a Happy Father’s Day.

Authenticity is The Best Policy

(click to see the book)

(click to see the book)

I was moved today by the story of a young (30) trans woman who wants be a mother.  Not surprisingly, she is plagued with fears of the unknown.  Her parents have disowned her because she had the courage to reveal her truth.  What if her child did the same?  Can she find a man who can embrace her and walk with her and a child as a family?  Though she has much love to give, she searches for someone to give it to.  It is a familiar story, tragically repeated amongst so many trans persons.

It is one that daily resonates with me.  (Only, it is my children who have disowned me.)  “Who will love me?”  I often wonder.  “Who can love me?” is the great trans lament.

“I realized that gender transition, even under the best of circumstances, is unequivocal and unforgiving.  It required of me everything I had, and then some.  I was still paying for it.  Yet, there was no compromise, no half measure.  I had to make my way in the world as a woman or not at all. I had been blessed and fortunate to have done so as quickly as I had and with relative ease.  Still, I was resigned to accept the fact that some pieces would never be complete.  I doubted that I would overcome gender identity discrimination in Montana, and it did not seem likely that I would find a man who could accept me and love me as the whole person that I am.  I had a whole heart, and I wanted the person who could take the hard part and love that too.  (The “Hard Part” by Dave Wilcox).  I wanted the person with whom I could share every secret so that secrets would be no more.  That person was not to be found.

I began to accept that too, as I mused about just who would want a trans woman for a partner.  In the ordinary course, a heterosexual male is looking for a heterosexual woman, not a heterosexual trans woman.  Guys, with few exceptions, think it’s just too freaky for them to accept.  A lesbian woman likewise does not want a lesbian trans woman, as we are sometimes perceived as something less than a real woman.  And I get that.  Even though I have this hunger to be known, I’m not like the girl next door.”

TransMontana, pp 281-82. (I try here to write for the entire trans community – not just me.)

So, I try to stop speculating about what might or might not be.  I have no control over what is yet to come, so must try to let go of fear.  My life is now – not some distant point in the future.  It is right here, right now.  I must live it, even though not as full or complete as I might like.  I have peace and joy in whom and what I am.  I may be a social enigma, but I know in my heart that I am whole as a woman, even though born as a man.  I believe in myself.  That gives me great comfort and strength.  Thus, I am able to interact with the rest of the world with honesty, authenticity and integrity.  And if I may find someone who can love me like that, well, it will have been worth the wait.

The Right To Kill 2

After the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, I wrote a piece called The Right To Kill.

I basically said that the insanity of “rights” over the safety of human life has come home to roost. The events in Aurora, preceded by shootings in Tulsa, Seattle, Oakland, Chardon, have brought a little attention to the deadliest shooting crimes in U.S. history- and the world ranking of the United States in terms of gun-related murders (4th highest). Nothing is changing. In fact, it’s probably just getting worse. Joe the Plumber blamed the holocaust on gun control. The American Family Association blames the murders on “liberal churches“- I know- I couldn’t believe it either. Except that I do. Any tragedy to bring the collection money rolling in is fair game for crazy pastors.

And that’s the problem. Crazy people who act out in public seem to give permission to crazy people in charge of congregations and political positions permission to act out, too. To act out with ideology front and center. Not compassion, ideology. And fear. Like I said, crazy. And people believe them. Instead of statistics. Instead of science. Instead of facts.

Roger Ebert, writing for the New York Times, has one of the most eloquent summaries of the Aurora shooting that I’ve read so far. From We’ve Seen This Movie Before:

That James Holmes is insane, few may doubt. Our gun laws are also insane, but many refuse to make the connection. The United States is one of few developed nations that accepts the notion of firearms in public hands. In theory, the citizenry needs to defend itself. Not a single person at the Aurora, Colo., theater shot back, but the theory will still be defended.

I was sitting in a Chicago bar one night with my friend McHugh when a guy from down the street came in and let us see that he was packing heat.

“Why do you need to carry a gun?” McHugh asked him.

“I live in a dangerous neighborhood.”

“It would be safer if you moved.”

This would be an excellent time for our political parties to join together in calling for restrictions on the sale and possession of deadly weapons. That is unlikely, because the issue has become so closely linked to paranoid fantasies about a federal takeover of personal liberties that many politicians feel they cannot afford to advocate gun control.

I’ve no doubt that posturing will constipate any real discussion of this issue- but Ebert adds a final, jarring note to his piece:

Immediately after a shooting last month in the food court of the Eaton Centre mall in Toronto, a young woman named Jessica Ghawi posted a blog entry. Three minutes before a gunman opened fire, she had been seated at the exact place he fired from.

“I was shown how fragile life was,” she wrote. “I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath.”

This same woman was one of the fatalities at the midnight screening in Aurora. The circle of madness is closing.

Indeed. And it’s closing in on all of us.

~

My Dissent Explained

Last week, I posted about my disappointment with Steve Bullock’s position on marriage equality- and there were several comments here, on other blogs and on Twitter debating whether we (progressives) could afford to not get behind the presumed Democratic nominee.

I simply want to say here, as I have in some responses on other platforms, that I am responding in the spirit of creative dissent. I am not going to lean back, say “Oh well, maybe someday he’ll get it,” act like nothing happened and proceed with business as usual. I’ve come too far- we’ve come too far- to do that.

When I moved back to Montana I made myself a promise- that I would never lie about or be ashamed of my thoughts, feelings or beliefs- even when they were unpopular or provocative. I also promised that, as a middle-aged gay man, I would do everything I could to ensure the continued, progressively advancing sense of dignity for all LGBT persons in the state of Montana. I’ve dealt with too many suicidal kids, too many disowned sons and daughters, too many shame-filled, damaged people to trust that politicians will, on their own, work to protect us.

They have to be convinced. And in order to do that, we first have to get their attention.

Looks like we did. Now, until something further is done, I’m voting for the candidate who most represents my views, just as everyone should. I’m against the death penalty, want women to make their own choices about their health, support legal recognition of same-sex relationship recognition/protection, and am a fan of higher education and preserving a clean planet. I want healthcare and insurance companies to be reasonable and efficient- and treat people with mental illness and substance issues with dignity and respect. I want the justice system to be fair to all citizens. I want church and state to be separate. I want the poor and disadvantaged to be given every chance to succeed.

I’m also a big fan of dialog, not diatribe. And dialog is about the expression of opinion, listening and responding accordingly. That’s all I hoped to accomplish. I am not out to derail the Democratic Party- and I will absolutely vote for the Democrat for Governor in the fall. The alternatives are too creepy to think about. I just wanted to be heard on behalf of the thousands of LGBT Montanans in this state- many of whom hold my views.

That’s all.

Now, about that Republican platform plank….

Janus, Chaz, Hillary, The Military, Barack, Science And HIV

Français : Demi-statère de Rome, tête de Janus...

Image via Wikipedia

(Also Published on LGBTQNation)
Janus was the Roman God of Thresholds, of transition, of beginnings and ending. He is often depicted with two faces, one for looking forward and one for looking back. January, the beginning month of the new year is named for Janus, and so, it’s natural that humans take this time to look back- and look forward- at the approach of the New Year.

As I take a look back, I’m very grateful for some amazing things that have happened this year in the U.S.- things that I never thought would happen in my lifetime- including:

All good stuff.

But what I am finding amazing is the conspicuous absence or light mentions in the LGBT media about the dramatic advances in HIV treatment and prevention in the “best of” roundups this year. A year when there have arguably been more advances in treatment, prevention and scientific breakthroughs than in any other year in the 30 since AIDS was discovered. A year when top government officials committed time, money and policy to ending this disease. A year when Science magazine called the HPTN 052 Study the scientific breakthrough of the year.

It’s puzzling.

Are we getting complacent about HIV? Are we in denial about the very real danger it still poses to our community? Do people understand that having HIV is difficult- creating financial, medical, emotional and social problems that can be devastating for people, families and communities?

It seems so.

I am, like I said, grateful for all the things listed above. I am grateful for Chaz and trans representation. I am grateful for relationship rcognition. I am grateful for advances in employment nondiscrimination. I am grateful that my government is taking LGBT rights seriously. I am especially grateful that the elected administration of this land is treating HIV like it should be treated- as a disease, a viral infection- and not as some Divine Punishment inflicted on the sexually and socially repugnant dregs of society. That is a big deal.

In fact it’s huge.

So why did we miss it?

Bozeman Letter To The Editor: Gays, “Just live the lifestyle you’ve chosen and keep quiet.”

From yesterday’s Bozeman Daily Chronicle comes the following letter. I thought it would be online today, but apparently it is not. I’ve transcribed it for your convenience.

To the Montana Gay Pride group and Tom Marsh, director:

A few questions:

Why do you have to openly march on the streets of Bozeman? Not all people flaunt their lifestyles before the public. Can’t you quietly live your lives the way we do? Just live the lifestyle you’ve chosen and keep quiet. If everyone with grievances to air acted like your group, our news media would be very busy.

Why were you unhappy before you came out? Why does it please you that Bozeman officials condone your actions? Can’t you live among us and remain silent and happy?

Alice Cooper
Belgrade 

I don’t know where to begin. But I will say, Tom Marsh is a dear friend- and I don’t respond well when people personally attack my friends.
So, I’ve taken more than a day to formulate a few salient points in a letter:

Dear Alice,

You asked a lot of questions in your letter to the editor in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle on October 21st, 2011. I would like to address them

People do not choose their sexual orientation. They acknowledge it. It is not a mental or physical illness to identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered or Intersex. Both the American Psychological Association and The American Medical Association agree with me- and they have for decades. Science is with me on this. Firmly.

We openly march, because we have to. Somewhere there is a child who doesn’t understand that people don’t choose their sexual orientation- and that child may grow up miserable, tortured and conflicted. And, according to statistics, will probably think about and attempt to take their lives as a result of that conflict and torture. I did. We march so that people will see that it is a part of the human condition to be LGBT. We are your neighbors, members of your family, in every occupation and human situation you can think of. We’re here, and it’s okay to be. And we march because there are still people who think it’s okay to hate us. We march so that maybe those people will realize that we are not monsters. We are human beings. And maybe there will be less children who think that God hates them, or that they’re less than other children simply because they are LGBT. If so, then one little annual parade is a small thing….

We would love to live our lives quietly- but there are laws (and lack thereof) and attitudes that prevent that. We don’t always feel safe. We aren’t always treated with dignity and respect. We don’t have equal protection under the law. Believe you me, I would love nothing more than to live my life quietly- and I will- when I am treated like every other person in this country and this state- because it’s hard to live a normal life when there are people just like me who are threatened with violence all over this country. It’s hard to live a happy life when you’re afraid.

If you want to know why we were unhappy before we came out, it’s pretty simple: because we were lying. Lying makes people unhappy. Stopping the lie is cause for celebration. And so we march and dance and celebrate being honest together.

And yes, it pleases us that Bozeman officials recognize the struggle to live a normal life in the face of being labelled a freak by a significant part of society. It pleases us to not be seen as freaks. Because we’re not. We’re just human beings who love and work and struggle just like you, Alice. Human beings of faith, spirit and purpose. Human beings with families and pets and houses and churches and favorite restaurants.

I also wonder if, in your letter, you substituted the word “Christian” or “Irish” or “Black” or “Woman” or “Immigrant”  for the word “Gay”, would you feel the same?

We do live among you. We do. And we’re not going to do it silently. That’s not how a democracy works. I live in The United States of America, and I have a right to free speech- as do you. Silence is not an option. Because you have written the above letter to a public newspaper, I’m sure you understand.

If you have any other questions, I will be happy to answer them as openly and honestly as I can.

Sincerely,

D Gregory Smith, stl, MA
Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Write your own Letter to the Editor of The Bozeman Daily chronicle here. 

Update: Online version of the letter (with a place to comment) here.

 

 

Presence

People often ask me how I listen to other people all day long and not go crazy. First of all, I don’t really ever look at what I do as “listening to people’s problems”. Yesterday, I was asked for some words to describe what I do, and my philosophy for doing it, and I came up with this:

Other people’s problems are exactly that.
Making them your own is not only arrogant- it’s unhealthy, exhausting and robs people of the creative pain that makes a life rich.
Being with them as they go through it is a privilege, but it is not always a call to action.
Presence is worth more than all the advice in the world. 

Works for me…

Adventures in the Molly House (or what I didn’t learn in History)

Not to knock my Central-Montana public education, but I think we skipped over some of the juicer parts of history.

Either that, or I nodded off when we learned of Princess Seraphina. An 18th Century Molly House Lady who brought a thief to court for stealing her clothes.  Ahh, queerness in the 18th century. The complete transcript of a trial in 1732 offers a peek at a character who knew how to work it. In an act of sheer extravaganza eleganza, Princess Seraphina, having been robbed at knife point, bloody and bruised, didn’t back down or cower. Girlfriend sued Thomas Gordon for ” putting him in fear, and taking from him a Coat, a Waistcoat, a pair of Breeches, a pair of Shoes, a pair of Silver Shoe-buckles, a Shirt, a Stock, a Silver Stock- buckle, and 4½d. in Money…”

The adventure of the Chevalier d’Eon was also skipped. You’d think in a county named Chouteau (with two “U”s, thankyouverymuch) the story of a spy who sported elegant gowns, who fought and fenced like a man yet walked like a woman would have been a great educational opportunity to spark some farm kid’s imagination and get her to learn more about French history…and transgender politics.

Yep. It’s history lessons like this that certainly would have rounded out my education. But, Mr. H, bless his basketball coach’s heart, never ventured into this territory.

Oh well, there’s always wiki on the interwebs.

Gays, Marriage Polls, Jesus and Sally Kern

From the Washington Post:

As New York gears up for its second weekend of same-sex nuptials, a Washington Post-ABC News poll finds Americans split 50 to 46 percent over whether the state’s law legalizing such unions is a positive or negative outcome. Reactions to the new legislation — like support for legalizing gay marriage in general — range tremendously across generational, political and religious lines.

Americans have grown increasingly accepting of same-sex marriage over the past decade, according to surveys by The Post and ABC,Gallup, the Pew Research Center and others. The public opposed legalizing gay and lesbian unions by a 58 to 36 percent margin in 2006, but the new Post-ABC poll finds a slight majority — 51 percent — saying such marriages should be legal.

New Yorkers- and Americans in general are increasingly favoring marriage equality.  A majority of Montanans now favor domestic partnerships. It’s becoming more clear that there is no threat from the “Gay Menace”. In fact, Virginia, there is no Gay Menace- and no threat.

It is worth noting, however, that the biggest statistical groups who view marriage equality as “Negative” come from “Conservative Republicans” (71%) and “White Evangelical Protestants” (71%).

Most of the weird, anti-gay vitriol comes from “conservatives” (notable exception: Ruben Diaz). The ignorant and hateful things Montana legislators have said on record have been well-documented here and on other sites (not so much in the Montana newspapers) and, you guessed it- they come from elected Republicans.

I have also noticed an element of religious righteousness when the conversation takes place with many “conservatives” whether in person, on tv or the radio. Maybe you’ve noticed it, too. I heard it last night on CNN when some Congressional Representatives had to go “pray about” the debt ceiling vote. Now I’m all for prayer, but they seem to be forgetting Matthew 6.5-6…. The point I’m struggling to make here, is that there is an element here that will not give in- not to science, not to reason, not to compassion, not to anything but radical fundamentalism. For them, that would be abandoning God’s Word- and for a fundamentalist/biblical literalist that means Hell- the ultimate fear meme. It’s that faction that concerns me. And it seems to be safely ensconced in the Republican Party.

A perfect example is Oklahoma Republican legislator Sally Kern, who had this to say about gay persons on July 27th:

To me what is hateful is when those people who say ‘you’re born this way, there’s no hope in change, you’re stuck in this, deal with it,’ that is hate. There’s no hope in that…

We’re losing our freedom of conscience. And if the homosexuals get what they want, and as you said it’s not just homosexuality, its immorality or adultery, all of that, but in my opinion the homosexual movement is the tip of the spear. They’re the ones who right now are beating down the door, have their foot in the door, trying to tear down the moral fiber of America. We have to stand up to that. The reason it’s the tip of the spear- you don’t see ‘Adulterers Victory Fund’ out there trying to promote adultery. God’s people got to stand up to this. (emphasis mine)

Here’s what’s disturbing to me about this: She can say these ignorant, hateful things in public, under the protection of free speech-and feel righteous and supported in doing so. Without serious repercussions from her party or other conservatives. In fact, they’ve been portraying themselves as victims. (seriously, watch this) I would love to hear an elected conservative make an “It Gets Better” video. None have done so. I would love to hear the uproar from thoughtful conservatives against the unreasonable lines of thought and logic. It doesn’t happen. Maybe a few gasping voices- but no uproar. That’s a fact.

I don’t want to bash- it’s not productive, but I do want to ask the question: Where are the reasonable voices for equality in the Republican Party? Why don’t we hear from them as much as Sally Kerns or Ann Coulter?

I have strong feelings about Christian Fundamentalism. I am firmly convinced that the enormous richness of scripture- and the whole Christian Tradition- becomes diluted with simplistic personal interpretations and wanton literalism. The Bible is a complex and varied collection of documents and literature- it is not to be simplistically reduced to quick and glib personal statements. Broad themes can be construed, yes, but not without a great deal of thought and research. And most scripture scholars would agree.

I have spent a great deal of my life studying the words and works of Jesus Christ. I have read the Bible- a lot. I have studied scholarly interpretations of scripture and worked with experts in the field- I have three degrees in theology, in fact- and I have never, not once, found a reason to believe Jesus would ever condone this sort of ignorant, non-loving nonsense. That’s not the Jesus I know and love. That particular Jesus is a creation of very frightened, and perhaps even, unenlightened people.

The real Jesus was interested in showing the love of God. He lived for mercy, justice and peace. He died for compassion and integrity and truth. I believe he’s interested in my truth. Not only interested but invested in it. And my truth is this: I am a man who simply wants to love and be loved according to my created, inborn nature- an inborn nature I spent years questioning, examining and reflecting upon.

That’s all. It’s quite simple really. I’m just asking the world to trust the reality of my experience. Arguably, the people I’m speaking of could say the same thing- but I would argue that they’ve abandoned experience in favor of biblical literalism.

There’s also this difference between us: my worldview doesn’t condemn anyone else to eternal fire and damnation. It doesn’t threaten anyone else at all, really. People like Sally Kern may think they’re being threatened, but I think they’re just scared- too scared to look at the reality of life with open hearts. Their hearts are set in stone- immovable, inflexible, afraid.

That’s not the way I want my heart to be. I want it to be open and accepting and generous and kind. I’m happy to let other people give love and receive love wherever they can. Without limits. Because that’s how I believe it works best.

And the good thing? The American People are starting to think so, too.